A Letter to my Seven Year Old Self

Please don’t misunderstand when I share this. I am not searching for sympathy. This girl imposed enough of that on herself when she was younger. I also used it as an excuse for my poor choices and bad behavior.

Why am I sharing?

Maybe this will help someone else. Maybe there’someone out there who’ve walked in my shoes. Maybe you too, have felt worthless or useless. Maybe like me, someone has made a promise they were never meant to make and it’s caused confusion and delusion. I don’t know, maybe someone just needs to hear that ”You are loved and worthy.”

This to me was a freeing exercise to do.

To my Seven-year-old self,

Little girl, you’ve placed the weight of the world on your shoulders. You have chosen a burden and responsibility much too great to shoulder. In fact, you can’t possibly do this. Not only are you not an adult, and trying to do adult things, you need to allow others to care for you.

I know you made a promise to your Daddy the night before he died. I know you intend to keep that promise. That’s how you are. You always strive to do what you say you will. But your Daddy didn’t mean it in the literal way you took it. He just wanted to reassure you that he had faith and confidence that you would do the right thing by helping your Mom, not trying to take his place.

Sweetie, you spent many hours angry and frustrated because you were a child trying to be an adult. You didn’t always enjoy the carefree life a child of seven often does. You grew up way too fast.

Your anger translated into hidden tears at night. It also wedged a gap between you and your Creator, God and your family members. Often times you would burst into fits of rage and no one understood because you never let anyone in your world. You kept it bottled. Plastered a smile on your face and pretended all was well.

You didn’t break the promise to you, Daddy. He is not disappointed with you. Your mom isn’t disappointed with you and your siblings are not disappointed with you. You are so loved.

Was it worth it?

I’ve been avoiding this post like the plaque. A few weeks ago when God began churning my heart, I told Him, “Not now”. Yes, like I’ve said before delayed obedience is disobedience and I disobeyed.

I think as I write you will see why I avoided writing. However, the urge is so great within me, I can no longer resist.

As you know my biological father died when I was 7. He died from Melanoma and you can read some of his story in my blog post, My sweetest sorrow.

Now, we are at another crossroads with cancer. My stepfather, Ned. He was diagnosed 18 months ago with Stage 4 Atypical Non-small cell adenocarcinoma lung cancer. It sucks. I’m just not going to sugar coat anything about it.

A few months back, well technically a few years ago God began to stir this thought and idea about these two men I have had to privilege of calling Dad.

First, you must understand the first to understand the second.

Mack, my dad, had a strong enduring faith in God. He hoped beyond all hope that one day a cure for Melanoma would be discovered. Knowing full well it would not be in his lifetime, he allowed the doctors at Baptist Hospital (Wake Forest) to try new treatments on him. He was their guinea pig. His philosophy and mindset was to aid in the research and help others in the future.

Another thing to understand about my dad is that he never shied away from sharing his faith. He firmly grasped and held tight to his belief in Jesus. He had strong convictions about sharing his faith and the above picture is a treasure straight out of his Bible. His desire was to see that no one would perish without knowing Jesus. His chief goal in life.

I believe that through his death his chief goal was reached and realized. When Jesus tells us in John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Bear with me while I explain.

When Mom and Ned began dating Ned wasn’t really living out a full life with Christ at the center. He had made a profession of faith but wasn’t really living a life totally reflective of Christ.

As their relationship began to grow so did his love for Jesus. Eventually leading up to his rededication. In perfect Ned style, it was not a haphazard decision, it was done with intent and passion. A decision he will tell you was the best choice he ever made aside from marrying my Mom.

The reality here is that without my dad having died, Ned may have never been able to experience the blessed life that only Jesus can give. If you ask Mack if it was worth dying for he would say, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

—————–—————

That was the original post from September 11, 2017.

Today marks the 43rd year my Daddy was called Home. The day that once brought me such pain, with each passing year, restores my hope and my joy. How can this be? Over the years, I was just enduring the pain, I am now learning to embrace it for what it is.

You will never get to the victory of the cross without enduring the pain and you’ll never be able to endure the pain without embracing the process.

My Sweetest Sorrow

Forty-one years ago today was the beginning of my “sweetest sorrow” or “the great sadness”.  I was seven, an innocent child, with the weight of the world on my shoulders.

The cancer diagnosis came when I was one and my dad was thirty.  A mole mom discovered on his back.  They removed the mole and it was malignant Melanoma.  After successfully removing the mole they had to continue cutting around the perimeter.  Finally, after leaving a crater sized hole in my dad’s back, margins were clear.

He was told by doctors at the time if he didn’t have any recurrence for two years, he would be fine.  Close to the end of the two-year period, he had a spot on his leg.  The Melanoma had returned.  This time, however, it had spread.  Chemo would be necessary. So, the arduous process began.

Every month for a week at time, he would travel to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem for treatments.  This continued for approximately four years.  In late February of 1976 while waiting to be checked-in, he told my mom that he couldn’t feel his legs.  Immediately, they rushed him for x-ray.  A large tumor was pressing on his spine.  It was inoperable.  My dad was paralyzed from his waist down.  He knew the end was drawing near and wanted to be closer to home.  The decision was made to transport him to Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville.  This would be his home for the next seven weeks.

We would visit frequently.  My dad had a pull-up bar in his room.  He still had strength in the upper part of his body and could pull himself to an upright position.  We called it his “monkey bar”.

On the evening of April 4, 1976, we went to visit.  Daddy was very weak and didn’t have strength to pull himself up.  He talked and laughed with us like normal but then as we were leaving he asked me to come hold his hand.  He looked at me with his beautiful sky blue eyes and told me how proud he was of me.  He told me how much he loved me and then the very last thing was, “Honey, you’re the oldest and I need you to help your Mama take care of your sister and brother.  Now, you be a good girl and remember I love you.” Then he kissed me.

Here I sit, forty-one years later and it still rips my heart into tiny little pieces.  I was given a task by my dying father that I could not fulfill.  I was far too young to take on responsibility of my younger siblings but at the time, I was determined to try.  I wanted to do what my daddy asked me to do.  I wanted to be his good little girl and I wanted him to be proud of me.

It wasn’t long after he died that I realized that I wasn’t able to live up to the promise I made to him and I began to feel like a failure.  Yes, at seven, I was a failure, a flop, or at least in my mind.   Thus began the compartmentalization of my heart.  I took each hurt and disappointment and tidied it up and put it in a box in my heart.  I shoved and stuffed for as long as I can remember.  In my mind, I yelled and screamed at God asking “Why”?  Why did my daddy have to die?  Why did you not answer my prayer?  Why did you send someone new into mom’s life?  Why?”

At night, I would bury my head under my pillow and cry myself to sleep.  I couldn’t let anyone see my misery, especially not my mom.  It was much easier for me to conceal than to feel.   Because I was hiding my pain, my anger grew.  It was intense and, at times, quite explosive.  In fact, this anger I carried into my relationship with my first husband, my children and even with Terry.  Oh, I had control over it, most days, but when it came out, it was ugly.  (My kids can attest)  The sad thing was I never really understood why I had these horrible explosive outbursts and most of them happened over the most random incidents.

I didn’t understand until I read “The Shack”.  Now, before you tune me out because you don’t agree with the book, hear me out.  As I read the book, it was as if God was taking me back to “my shack”, “my sweetest sorrow” or “the great sadness”.  Just as Mack, in the book, learns how to trust God with his deepest hurt and pain, I had to learn the same thing.  I had to allow myself to feel the grief of my father’s death.  I had to learn to let God help me work through the feelings of worthlessness and failure I felt for not being able to fulfill my dad’s wish.  What I really had to learn was to get over the anger I held in my heart towards God.  This was a pivotal moment.  It was the recognition that my anger towards God for letting my daddy die was the reason I burned so fiercely with anger. I had to let that anger go.  The only way to let it go was to tell God all about it and allow him to begin the healing process.

Remember, I told you in my post, “Binding Wounds”, that most of the time we don’t want the wound to be pulled apart because it hurts too much.  Well, it hurt like hell.  I felt as if my whole entire soul was being ripped apart.  It was.  It needed to be.  I needed to feel the pain of being seven and losing a most beautiful life.  For the first time, I grieved.  I grieved not just the loss of my dad but the loss of my innocence.  Through the grief of “my sweetest sorrow” I began to heal.  I began to be able to feel the anger subside.  Do I still get angry?  Sure, I do.  I just don’t have the feelings of irrational rage.  Most times, I am able, with God’s help, to prevent an outburst before it happens.

For years, this day has been much harder than tomorrow, the day my daddy died.  It was hard because I never wanted to talk about what happened the night before.  I didn’t want to share my deepest hurt because it hurt too much.

My prayer through sharing this story is that it will help you to understand a little more of who I am.  I am wired differently and think differently because of the events that happened in my childhood.  My hope is also that my story will benefit others.

I am here today sharing this story only by the grace of God.

“The Lord says, ‘I will rescue those who love me.  I will protect those who trust in my name.  When they call on me, I will answer.  I will be with them in trouble.  I will rescue and honor them.” Psalms 91 14-15